2013 / 2月
Chen Hsin-yi /tr. by Jonathan Barnard
Do you like the warm, soft and extremely comfortable bedding found at five-star hotels in Taiwan? The special-order varieties of bedding found at these hotels are largely manufactured in Taiwan and filled with Taiwan-raised and -processed down, but the hotel industry here used to take a low-key approach and not announce the place of origin of these products.
The good news is that this spring the Council of Agriculture is on the verge of announcing CAS (certified agricultural standards) for labeling Taiwan down. What’s more, the COA will be promoting local brands. As consumers gain knowledge about these brands, they will be able to obtain top-quality domestically produced down products at a fair price.
With ponds, lakes and rivers scattered throughout Taiwan, farmers have long made raising ducks and geese an important sideline business, and the production of feathers and down has remained relatively stable over the years. According to COA statistics, 28 to 29 million ducks and about 5 million geese are raised for slaughter each year in Taiwan. Based on these figures, it is estimated that Taiwan produces about NT$1.4 billion worth of raw feathers annually. The weight of Taiwan-raised down after processing exceeds 2000 metric tons a year and accounts for about 20% of all down feathers processed in Taiwan, with a value of NT$4.5 billion.
Jiang Wenquan, poultry industry section chief at the COA, points out that because people in Taiwan prefer the flavor of mature birds, they are typically raised for 70–85 days, meaning that the down feathers are desirably mature (providing greater loft) and copious in quantity. The down is particularly abundant on plump winter geese.
And Taiwan, with its small area, has a particularly well developed division of labor in the down industry: “It is the only place in the world where it is possible to complete the preliminary washing process within 12 hours after slaughter.” That helps to prevent disintegration of the down and enhances the loft and warmth of the finished product.
The high quality of the down produced in Taiwan is well known among down processors, so they often establish their own finished goods departments or work with textile manufacturers to produce high-quality bedding, which they supply to hotels or sales outlets at department stores. A small number of them even make down clothing.
Yet, why is it that most consumers have never come across down products with labels announcing that they are “made in Taiwan”? Jiang explains that in years past the only relevant domestic certification was the Ministry of Economic Affair’s CNS2119 certification for “waterfowl feathers,” which only requires that feathers have had a preliminary cleaning. What’s more, since certification wasn’t compulsory, most products lacked any labels of certification.
In order to build an image for high-quality Taiwan-produced down, the COA plans to develop a CAS label for Taiwan down as early as March. Comforters, which use the most down, have been targeted as a top priority. Those attaining the certification will be required to have everything from production of the raw down to the processing carried out in Taiwan. (The single exception will be allowing for imported comforter “shells,” which will then need to be stuffed in Taiwan). And there will be exacting controls for quality.
The Taiwan Feather Exporters’ Association also recommends that when making purchases consumers carefully inspect and read component tags and perform some small tests of their own: Press on it. Does the down quickly rebound to its original loft? Smell it. Were the washing, drying and sanitizing processes carried out thoroughly? Shake it. Does any of the down come out? (If some does, it indicates that the fabric weave is too loose.) Feel it. The higher the down content, the softer it should feel.